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You might know turmeric as the yellow spice that gives curry its vibrant color. But turmeric does not just perk up your food! This kitchen spice has always been valued in ancient medical sciences like ayurveda for its many health-promoting properties, helping treat conditions ranging from gynecological problems to infectious diseases.[ref]Gupta, Subash C., Bokyung Sung, Ji Hye Kim, Sahdeo Prasad, Shiyou Li, and Bharat B. Aggarwal. “Multitargeting by turmeric, the golden spice: from kitchen to clinic.” Molecular nutrition & food research 57, no. 9 (2013): 1510-1528.[/ref]
But that is not all. Turmeric can work wonders on your skin, too. In fact, it is traditional for brides in India to apply a paste of turmeric on their body a couple of days before the wedding. This is said to leave the skin soft and glowing. It is time you checked out this amazing spice.
1. Balances Oil Content Of Skin
If you have been struggling with oily skin all your life, turmeric may be the answer to your prayers. Oils are naturally secreted by the sebaceous glands in the skin to keep it supple and soft. However, excessive oil production can lead to an unappealing shine and make you prone to acne. Turmeric can address this problem.
A study that looked at the impact of turmeric extract in a cream form on oily skin found that, when applied twice daily for 3 months, it reduced facial oils by about 25% at the end of the study period. The phytosterols like beta-sitosterol and stigmasterol and fatty acids like palmitic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, and linolenic acid present in turmeric may be responsible for this effect.[ref]Zaman, S. U., and Naveed Akhtar. “Effect of turmeric (Curcuma longa Zingiberaceae) extract cream on human skin sebum secretion.” Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research 12, no. 5 (2013): 665-669.[/ref]
2. Protects Your Skin From Sun Damage
Sun damage can make your skin look old before its time. Over-exposure to sunlight can give you a tan, make your skin less elastic, and cause sun spots as well as wrinkles. Turmeric in your diet or applied on your skin can help prevent many of these effects.
In one animal study, researchers studied the impact of long-term, low-dose ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation on the skin. It was found that when a turmeric extract was applied twice daily, the skin was protected from the loss of elasticity and skin thickening usually caused by long-term exposure to UVB light.
Turmeric also prevented the formation of wrinkles, pigmentation, and the increase in the length and width of blood vessels supplying blood to the skin. It also inhibited an enzyme (matrix metalloproteinase-2) which can degrade collagen, the protein building blocks of your skin that keep it supple.[ref]Sumiyoshi, Maho, and Yoshiyuki Kimura. “Effects of a turmeric extract (Curcuma longa) on chronic ultraviolet B irradiation-induced skin damage in melanin-possessing hairless mice.” Phytomedicine 16, no. 12 (2009): 1137-1143.[/ref]
3. Fights Psoriasis, Scleroderma, Eczema, And Lichen Planus
Psoriasis is an autoimmune inflammatory skin disease that causes thick, scaly, red lesions on your body. This skin condition is associated with an increase in the activity of the enzyme phosphorylase kinase (PhK) and one mode of treatment is UVB phototherapy. But phototherapy poses the threat of organ toxicity. Turmeric can provide an alternative and safer means of treatment. As one study showed, treatment with curcumin, the major bioactive ingredient in turmeric, could help resolve psoriasis by modulating PhK activity.[ref]Heng, M. C. Y., M. K. Song, J. Harker, and M. K. Heng. “Drug‐induced suppression of phosphorylase kinase activity correlates with resolution of psoriasis as assessed by clinical, histological and immunohistochemical parameters.” British Journal of Dermatology 143, no. 5 (2000): 937-949.[/ref] Curcumin also helps alter the gene expression of TNF cytokine, the protein complex responsible for systemic inflammation, and helps manage autoimmune conditions.[ref]Herbs/Natural Remedies. National Psoriasis Foundation.[/ref] [ref]Shishodia, Shishir. “Molecular mechanisms of curcumin action: gene expression.” Biofactors 39, no. 1 (2013): 37-55.[/ref]
Likewise, scleroderma, a condition where the skin thickens, could be improved with curcumin. Scleroderma patients also have a risk of fibrosis in the lungs. Curcumin can exert a protective effect by modulating protein kinase C activity – protein kinase C is an enzyme that modifies other proteins structurally and is linked with cancer progression.[ref]Aggarwal, Bharat B., Young-Joon Surh, and Shishir Shishodia, eds. The molecular targets and therapeutic uses of curcumin in health and disease. Vol. 595. Springer Science & Business Media, 2007.[/ref]
Apply a paste of turmeric paste and water on the affected part of the skin. Wash off after 15 minutes.
In another study on eczema patients, the effect of turmeric in the form of gel, microemulsion, and ointment was tested. In the majority of the patients, turmeric could improve all the symptoms like redness and inflammation (erythema), edema, itching, and sclaing (lichenification) more significantly than the placebo. While the microemulsion form relieved erythema and edema, the gel alleviated itching, and the ointment prevented scaling. The study also tested the effects of walnut and Indian pennywort, and these too showed similar effects.[ref]Khiljee, Sonia, Nisar Ur Rehman, Tanzila Khiljee, Raimar Loebenberg, and Rao Saeed Ahmad. “Formulation and clinical evaluation of topical dosage forms of Indian Penny Wort, walnut and turmeric in eczema.” Pakistan journal of pharmaceutical sciences 28, no. 6 (2015).[/ref]
Lichen planus is yet another skin condition turmeric can improve. This non-infectious inflammation is characterized by an itchy, reddish-purple rash, in different parts of the body, including the mouth. In a study on oral lichen planus, applying turmeric ointment on the mouth sores for 3 months removed the signs completely in patients.[ref]Singh, Vibha, Mahesh Pal, Shalini Gupta, S. K. Tiwari, Laxman Malkunje, and Somdipto Das. “Turmeric-A new treatment option for lichen planus: A pilot study.” National journal of maxillofacial surgery 4, no. 2 (2013): 198[/ref]
4. Boosts Wound Healing
Turmeric has traditionally been used to promote wound healing. Researchers treated women who had undergone a cesarean operation with a turmeric cream and found that it could speed up wound healing, which was measured by parameters like swelling, redness, and bruising.[ref]Mahmudi, G., M. Nikpour, M. Azadbackt, R. Zanjani, M. A. Jahani, A. Aghamohammadi, and Y. Jannati. “The Impact of Turmeric Cream on Healing of Caesarean Scar.” West Indian Medical Journal 64, no. 4 (2015).[/ref]
Another study which looked at the effect of turmeric (taken orally) and neem oil (applied topically) on chronic non-healing wounds found that after 8 weeks of treatment this combination healed 70% of the participants.[ref]Singh, Anjali, Anil Kumar Singh, G. Narayan, Teja B. Singh, and Vijay Kumar Shukla. “Effect of Neem oil and Haridra on non-healing wounds.” Ayu 35, no. 4 (2014): 398.[/ref]
There is evidence that curcumin reduces inflammation and oxidation and helps in the formation of new tissue, deposition of collagen, remodeling of tissue, and wound contraction to promote wound healing.[ref]Akbik, Dania, Maliheh Ghadiri, Wojciech Chrzanowski, and Ramin Rohanizadeh. “Curcumin as a wound healing agent.” Life sciences 116, no. 1 (2014): 1-7.[/ref]
To top it all, turmeric has the ability to heal wounds even when the subject has compromised wound healing capacity whether due to diabetes, poor immunity, or other infections. It can even heal wounds that have been exposed to radiation. Taking curcumin before irradiation of wounds improved the rate of wound healing.[ref]Aggarwal, Bharat B., Young-Joon Surh, and Shishir Shishodia, eds. The molecular targets and therapeutic uses of curcumin in health and disease. Vol. 595. Springer Science & Business Media, 2007.[/ref]
5. Battles Skin Cancer
We have already mentioned how turmeric helps against sun damage and prevents inflammation. Since sun damage is directly linked to skin cancer, a regular application of turmeric may keep your skin safe. That apart, animal studies show that curcumin in turmeric can inhibit the formation of tumors and reduce the number of existing tumors. It does this by fighting free radicals, inhibiting inflammatory proteins, and preventing abnormal and uncontrolled growth of skin cells (epidermal hyperplasia) caused by radiation. It may even influence genes that can turn a cell cancerous.[ref][ref]Aggarwal, Bharat B., Young-Joon Surh, and Shishir Shishodia, eds. The molecular targets and therapeutic uses of curcumin in health and disease. Vol. 595. Springer Science & Business Media, 2007.[/ref][/ref] [ref]Kakar, Sham S., and Deodutta Roy. “Curcumin inhibits TPA induced expression of c-fos, c-jun and c-mycproto-oncogenes messenger RNAs in mouse skin.” Cancer letters 87, no. 1 (1994): 85-89.[/ref]
In a lab study on human melanoma cells, curcumin suppressed a protein complex called NF-κB, which when overactive can cause cancer and other inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. Curcumin also induced apoptosis, or programmed cell death in cancerous cells without affecting normal cells.[ref]Siwak, Doris R., Shishir Shishodia, Bharat B. Aggarwal, and Razelle Kurzrock. “Curcumin‐induced antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects in melanoma cells are associated with suppression of IκB kinase and nuclear factor κB activity and are independent of the B‐Raf/mitogen‐activated/extracellular signal‐regulated protein kinase pathway and the Akt pathway.” Cancer 104, no. 4 (2005): 879-890.[/ref] Researchers have suggested that applying curcumin-based creams may be as effective as taking curcumin in the diet.[ref]Sonavane, Kunal, Jeffrey Phillips, Oleksandr Ekshyyan, Tara Moore-Medlin, Jennifer Roberts Gill, Xiaohua Rong, Raghunatha Reddy Lakshmaiah et al. “Topical curcumin-based cream is equivalent to dietary curcumin in a skin cancer model.” Journal of skin cancer 2012 (2012).[/ref]
In an animal study on squamous cell carcinoma, mice that did not receive curcumin (15 mg) had a faster increase in tumor volume – by 2.3 times. This shows that turmeric can have an inhibitory effect on tumor progression.[ref]Phillips, Jeffrey M., Cheryl Clark, Lilantha Herman-Ferdinandez, Tara Moore-Medlin, Xiaohua Rong, Jennifer Roberts Gill, John L. Clifford, Fleurette Abreo, and Cherie-Ann O. Nathan. “Curcumin inhibits skin squamous cell carcinoma tumor growth in vivo.” Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery 145, no. 1 (2011): 58-63.[/ref]
A study found that turmeric extract, as well as an ointment of curcumin (which is a major component of turmeric), had a striking impact on external cancerous lesions. As a result of using turmeric, almost all the participants experienced relief from itching. About 90% noticed that their lesions started smelling less while 70% of the participants found that their lesions were drying up.[ref]Kuttan, Ramadasan, P. C. Sudheeran, and C. D. Josph. “Turmeric and curcumin as topical agents in cancer therapy.” Tumori 73, no. 1 (1987): 29-31.[/ref] But apart from this, human clinical trials have not been conducted.
That said, the other beneficial effects of turmeric on the skin make it a must in your skincare regimen.
Give Your Skin A Treat With Turmeric!
Traditionally, turmeric powder is mixed with yogurt and applied on the face to rid it of blemishes and sunburn.[ref]Dueep Singh, John Davidson. Introduction to Ayurveda – Keeping Healthy the Ancient Way. Mendon Cottage Books. 2015[/ref] Turmeric tends to be a strong spice, so mixing it with honey, yogurt, or milk (rather than water) can tone it down in a face pack so you do not experience a burning sensation. Remember to do a patch test on your arm before you start, though.
A turmeric oatmeal scrub mixed with some milk cream can also help sort out those rough elbows or knees. Leave the scrub on for about 20 minutes and then wash it off with warm water for smooth, healthy skin.[ref]John Davidson, Dueep Singh. The Magic of Turmeric For Health and Beauty.JD-Biz Corp Publishing, 2013.[/ref]
Do not worry if the turmeric gives your skin a slightly yellow hue. This usually fades on its own. You can also remove the turmeric stain by dipping a cotton ball in some milk and rubbing it off.[ref]Ricci, Jeanne. “Skin Soothing Spice.” Yoga Journal (2003).[/ref]